The parents of the asylum seeker Reza Barati are suing the Australian government over his murder in an offshore detention centre.
The 23-year-old Iranian was beaten to death by guards and other workers during a violent confrontation at the Manus Island detention centre in 2014.
His parents, Ita Torab Barati and Farideh Baralak, have filed a civil claim in the Victorian supreme court seeking exemplary damages from the commonwealth and the security contractor G4S for wrongful death and mental harm.
It’s believed to be the first time a case has been filed in Australian courts on behalf of someone who has died in offshore detention.
In a statement released to the media on Monday, Barati’s father, Torab, said Reza was his only son and he had cared deeply for his family.
“Our family is heartbroken and we have been suffering for so long with his death,” he said. “I want justice for my son, I don’t want his death to be insignificant.”
More than 60 other asylum seekers were injured during two days of unrest in February 2014.
According to court documents, Barati was returning to his bedroom on 17 February after gunshots were fired in his compound, when a local detention centre worker in a G4S uniform hit him from behind with a long stick.
He fell and was surrounded by 10 men, who kicked him in the head.
Two men found guilty of his murder were jailed for 10 years in Papua New Guinea’s national court.
The Barati family’s statement of claim shows that in the six months leading up to the violence, tensions had increased at the detention centre, and the number of detainees had increased tenfold – from 130 in July 2013 to 1,340 in February 2014.
The detention centre had been built to house 500 people.
It’s alleged the commonwealth knew or should have known there was “a high likelihood of tensions rising and violent protests occurring”, due to the overcrowding.
For its part, G4S had provided “numerous reports” about the “dangerously hostile situation and risk of violence” in the weeks leading up to the unrest, it’s claimed.
A Senate inquiry found the violence was “eminently foreseeable” and blamed the riots on delays in processing asylum seeker claims.
It recommended that the Barati family should be paid compensation but their lawyers said no compensation had yet been paid.
A Maurice Blackburn lawyer, Jennifer Kanis, said the Australian government and G4S had failed in their duty of care.
“Their failure to protect these people in their care has led to the tragic death of Reza Barati, and caused devastating harm to his parents,” she said.
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The legal director of the Human Rights Law Centre, Keren Adams, said Barati’s death had become a symbol of the brutality of the offshore detention system.
“These proceedings can’t bring back their son, but they can ensure that those ultimately responsible for his death are finally forced to account for their actions,” she said.
The Department of Home Affairs said that as the matter was before the court it was not appropriate to comment.
G4S has also been contacted for a response.